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Winners, Losers & Wannabes – NFL Week 11

Nick Foles and Chip Kelly have the Eagles back in first place in the NFC East. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Winners

Greg Schiano
Christian Ponder got the start again for the Minnesota Vikings Sunday. When he was ineffective they went to Matt Cassel. See how Josh Freeman wasn’t mentioned there? Meanwhile, Mike Glennon continues to improve and has won two straight.

New Orleans Saints
Don’t be fooled by the score. The Saints were the better team Sunday. I understand turnovers are a part of football but the Saints were responsible for keeping San Francisco in the game. Lance Moore coughed up a punt and gifted the 49ers possession inside the ten. Then New Orleans fumbled an interception out of the end zone for a San Francisco touchback. Then Brees had a foolish interception that led to San Francisco’s 2nd touchdown. Credit San Fran’s defense for containing Brees and the offense, but Colin Kaepernick and the 49er offense still can’t generate offense against good teams unless the 49er defense presents them with easy points.

Philadelphia Eagles
Chip Kelly has the Eagles back on top of the NFC East after surviving a late comeback by the Redskins. The offense continues to roll under Nick Foles, blah blah blah Who cares. The defense is what really matters. The same defense that allowed 34.5 points per game over the first four weeks has not allowed an opponent more than 21 points since. In fact, only once in their last five outings has the defense surrendered more than 17 points. Even Jim Johnson could be proud of that.

Arizona Cardinals
If Carson Palmer plays like that (30/42, 419 YDS, 2 TD, 0 TO) the Cardinals will be very tough to beat. Thankfully, we know Carson Palmer can’t sustain that level of play. In fact, it took a miracle for Palmer to go turnover-less in Jacksonville. Late in the 2nd half with Arizona nursing a 10 point lead, Palmer threw a horrific interception. Luckily for Arizona, a whistle had blown just before the snap and the play was called back.

Alex Smith
I came away from Sunday night’s loss to Denver believing Alex Smith could lead a team to the Super Bowl. He’s not good enough to carry a team, of course, but with that defense he’s plenty capable of not being the guy to screw it up. I thought Smith was Kansas City’s best player last night. His receivers let him down with a number of drops, especially ones downfield that would have resulted in big plays. I’m more in on the Chiefs than I was 24 hours ago.

New York Giants
The Giants are stringing together perhaps the ugliest four game winning streak in NFL history. We already know they’ll beat the Cowboys Sunday, so I suppose we should just welcome the G-Men back into the NFC East title chase now.

Andy Reid
Perhaps Andy Reid did in fact know what he was doing when he appointed the green Sean McDermott to lead the defense after the passing of the great Jim Johnson. McDermott is the mastermind behind Carolina’s outstanding defense.

Losers

Andy Reid
Reid let the media and fan base influence his once sound coaching decisions when he panicked and removed Sean McDermott from his post. Whoops.

Us
Us as in football fans. At times the NFL is unwatchable. Flags are thrown for no reason. Officials determine the outcome of at least one game per week. Yesterday’s Saints win was a perfect example. Ahmad Brooks did everything he could to close out a win for the San Francisco 49ers. He got around the tackle and smashed his right arm into the chest of Drew Brees, launching Brees backward as the football popped loose. Apparently, the hit was too violent as the officials flagged brooks for an illegal hit to the neck. Whatever. I like football 40% less than I did three years ago. It’s a pansy game now. Hit someone too hard? Flag. Fail to make your presence known to a receiver before laying him out? Flag. It’s a violent sport. Injuries happen. You can’t protect players at all times. At some point, the NFL must realize these guys know what they signed up for and are being paid accordingly. Or, they can change their name to the National Flag Football League.

Jim Schwartz
Note to coaches: When you’re on the road with a chance to stretch your lead to seven in the 4th quarter it’s probably a good idea to kick the field goal and ignore the temptation of a fake field goal. Apparently, Jim Schwartz is not that guy. He went for the fake, it blew up in his face, and his Lions managed to lose a game where they outscored the opponent 27-6 in a single quarter.

Baltimore Ravens
After suffering through two of the most frustrating seasons I remember, I often think about which fan base is having the most agonizing season. While the Texans, Falcons, and Redskins fans have valid resumes, the Ravens are my winners. Unlike the aforementioned teams, the Ravens actually play really well at times. Unfortunately, it’s never for a full game. Sunday’s loss in Chicago was another example of the Ravens failing to close out a game they should have won. Baltimore’s defense completely collapsed in overtime after failing to get off the field on 3rd and long early in Chicago’s game-winning drive.

Eli Manning
The two time Super Bowl champ has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions twice this year. Twice.

Houston Texans
Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson exchanging words on the sideline sums up everything you need to know about Houston’s season. I’m not sure why the Texans benched Case Keenum though. Schaub was awful in relief, and don’t the Texans want as many snaps as possible for Keenum to determine whether he’s worth future investment?

The Detroit Lions
What a missed opportunity for the Lions. With the Packers hosting the Vikings this week and the Lions set to host the Packers on Thanksgiving, there’s a possibility Green Bay could leapfrog the Lions in the NFC North with a win on turkey day. I find it hard to believe Aaron Rodgers will sit out Thanksgiving, even if it means he’ll play at 60%.

Wannabes

Robert Griffin III
Sunday was the third time I’ve seen Griffin get picked off in an attempt to throw the football away. No one else in the league has this problem. The Redskins obviously need a new coach but more importantly, they need a coach to put Griffin in his place. His postgame press conference where he threw his coach and offensive coordinator under the bus was yet another display of Griffin’s diva nature.

New York Jets
At home, the Jets are a fringe playoff team. On the road, the Jets are Jaguar-esque. In their last three road losses, the Jets have been outscored by 88 points. Yeesh.

Cleveland Browns
The Browns had a golden opportunity to jump back into the AFC North division race with a win over the sinking Bengals. Cleveland jumped out to a 13-0 lead and looked poised for a 2nd straight win. Then the wheels fell off. Cincinnati scored 31 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter alone.

San Diego Chargers
Sorry, Chargers. You can’t lose in Washington D.C. and Miami and still be considered a playoff contender. San Diego’s Achilles heel is the red zone. They’ve converted touchdowns on only five of their last ten trips inside the 20.

Young QB Rankings

(Let’s face it, the biggest story/stories driving the league right now is the play of young quarterbacks. Since it’s such a big deal, I’ll be sure to rank the top seven after each week starting right now. There are no real criteria other than they must be within their first five years in the league.)

1. Russell Wilson – Wilson’s been fantastic of late. He’s completed at least 72% of his passes in Seattle’s last three games.
2. Andrew Luck – Another 2nd half comeback for Luck. At some point you’d think he’d save himself the stress and play well from the get-go.
3. Robert Griffin III – He wasn’t perfect, but I thought Griffin III had a nice day in Philadelphia… right up until he threw the game away for no reason whatsoever.
4. Cam Newton – TBD. Monday Night is the biggest game of Cam Newton’s young career.
5. Colin Kaepernick – Unbelievable stat of the week: Kaepernick has surpassed 200 passing yards twice all season and only once since his brilliant Week 1. He’s on the verge of dropping down a level.

(Space is to emphasize the guys above are on a different level than the ones below.)

6. Nick Foles – It wasn’t Foles’ best outing as he missed on the majority of his deep throws, but he was once again efficient and managed to avoid the big turnovers.
7. Mike Glennon – Beat out EJ Manuel’s impressive day by completing 20 of his 23 attempts in a blowout win over Atlanta. Maybe Greg Schiano knows what he’s doing after all.

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